Coming out in hip hop: A Black man's journey to liberation
Cyril Josh Barker | 10/4/2013, 8:49 p.m.
Hip hop and homosexuality are two things most wouldn't put together and a topic mainstream media barely touches on. However, with recent headlines about longtime Hot 97 DJ Mister Cee's sexuality, the conversation is in the spotlight.
In September, an audio recording of Mister Cee, whose real name is Calvin LeBrun, was posted on YouTube by a transsexual who alleged the famed DJ wanted to engage in a sexual encounter. Mister Cee previously announced the ending of his over 20-year stint with Hot 97 but later decided to stay at the station.
As Mister Cee continues his path in hip hop with everyone knowing the truth, there have been some before him who have taken a similar journey. A small number of openly, gay Black men in hip hop exist who have dealt with the similar struggle of hiding.
October 11 is National Coming Out Day and for former MTV on-air personality, comedian and current BET Music Director Buttahman, it marks one year since being honest with the world.
Buttahman is best known as the former host of “Hood Fab” on the MTV Jams network, which ran for three seasons. He came out of the closet in October 2012 and was already known among hip hop circles as a key and powerful figure in the music industry.
“There is a level of denial when you are struggling with your sexuality,” Buttahman said. “I empathize with the inability to admit who you are and what you're into. When I was doing my TV show, I was living as a gay man and keeping it a secret from everyone. If I came out I thought to myself, 'Am I going to lose everything?' That's the real fear gay men in hip hop have.”
Buttahman added that Mister Cee is from hip hop's “golden age” when being gay was frowned upon. However, as time has evolved, homosexuality has become more accepted.
While living a secret life he was also living in fear. Buttahman would go to gay clubs and venues even though he was scared of being found out about. He recalls the struggle of living in a hyper-masculine, heterosexual world while hiding his true self.
“I had people ask me if I was gay to my face and I would say 'no' and I even dated women. In hip hop you always have to have a girl and I did for fear of exposure. If I had an event to go to or a premier, I would call a female friend to go with me. I was at the best time of my life when I was pretending to be straight but it was the worst time because I was so scared all the time,” he said.
Making the decision to come out wasn't an easy one. He said since coming out, he's living a more happier life with peace of mind. As far as Mister Cee is concerned, Buttahman believes the radio giant will come back strong and what he does behind closed doors is of little concern.
“Regardless of his sexuality he still has influence,” he said. “I've walked in his shoes. People call it 'being in the closet' but it's really the closet that kills you. The road is not as hard as it used to be and being in a liberal city, like New York or Atlanta, it's much easier today.”
Since coming out in 2012 Buttahman said he feels better that all of his friends, family and co-workers know the truth. He also added that while hip hop has some ways to go when it comes to accepting homosexuality, the door is opening.
“There is a new tolerance in hip hop with gay culture being more out there,” he said. “The lying and denying chips away at your respect. Once a secret is reveled, it loses its power.”